By Rebecca Drew
AFTER FIRST trying drugs at the age of TWELVE, this man thought he was ‘BORN TO DIE A DRUG ADDICT’ as he spiralled into a HEROIN, meth and crack cocaine addiction and spent most of his life ‘covered in dried blood, searching for veins’– but when his mum threw him into rehab for five months he fell in love with the gym and credits it with keeping him sober for almost four years.
Content creator, Taylor Reichelt (31) from Los Angeles, California, USA, struggled to connect with people growing up which weighed on his mind heavily. At 12, Taylor first tried marijuana which instantly helped to shut his brain off and he felt like he was able connect with his peers who were smoking too.
By the time Taylor hit his twenties, he was making good money running a sushi kitchen whilst doing heroin which made him feel like he had made it. To his friends and family, he was a successful young man with the whole world at his feet but when he was 22 Taylor lost his job because of his drug use and in despair, he started using meth and crack cocaine as well as heroin but once again he felt as though he belonged with the people he associated with.
When he was 27, Taylor had resigned himself to dying a drug addict and would find himself on bathroom floors, covered in his own dried blood, spending up to 48 hours desperately searching for a vein to get high. During this time, Taylor would have to watch and say nothing out of fear of being cut off when his dealer abused his girlfriend but one day his fear escalated and his mum picked him up and drove him to rehab, where he stayed for five months and fell in love with the gym.
Following his stint in rehab, Taylor was introduced to the 12 step programme and became a nationally qualified athlete, he now speaks in schools to educate teenagers and parents about drugs.
Taylor has been sober since October 10, 2015 and is married to Stephanie Harger (30).
“The majority of my life was spent on a bathroom floor, covered in dried blood, searching for veins. Stabbing myself over and over and over with the needles until all my limbs were swollen,” said Taylor.
“I would spend anywhere from 12 to 48 hours sometimes before actually finding a vein and by that time I would have to just start over again.
“I first got the opportunity to use drugs the same way most people do. In school. I guess growing up in LA I could blame the environment, but others don’t say yes when asked if they wanted to try drugs, so I feel it was more me than where I was.
“I first smoked marijuana. It didn’t make me feel necessarily good, but I remember it made me feel different and shut my brain off. And that was what I wanted. Plus, when I was high I was a part of something. The other kids that were high and I shared a common bond if you will.
“We were outcast now. Going against the grain. Instantly it was us against the world. Or at least that’s how I felt anyway. I knew in that moment drugs would be a part of my life forever.
“Early twenties were incredible. Well at least I was under the delusion that they were. I felt like I had made it. I was cruising through, making good money and doing heroin. I had arrived! I felt good all the time because of the drugs and I could afford the drugs all the time because of my job.
“At that point I was somehow running a kitchen at a prestigious sushi restaurant in Santa Monica. On paper I had the world at my fingertips. My parents were proud and my friends were in envy. Taylor Reichelt was on his way.
“Little did they, or I for that matter, know that my life was about to get very dark, very quickly. After getting fired from that job due to my drug use my attitude towards my life and myself became that of hatred and despair.
“I started doing meth and smoking crack on top of the heroin. I had now accepted my place amongst the junkies and lowlifes. But yet again I found a place where I belonged and felt comfortable. So, I convinced myself that this was just where I was meant to end up and I would ride it out to the very end in a blaze of glory with my middle finger held high.
“I was just sick of watching my drug dealer physically abuse his girlfriend on a regular basis. I was sick of not doing anything about it due to the fear of being cut off. One day it was so bad I had to leave.
“I ended up in rehab by a series of events, which some would call divine intervention, but I don’t have too much recollection of what happened. I know my mum picked me up and took me to a detox centre. I didn’t question it though. I was just happy to have a hot shower, food and a bed.
“I was in rehab for five months. That got me separated from the drugs long enough for me to no longer be physically dependent. While there, I took advantage of every tool they had (trauma therapy etc) and did everything they told me to do. That facility led me to the rooms of 12 step programmes. It’s in the rooms of those 12 step programmes that I got true relief and was able to build a solid foundation for long term recovery.
“When I was in rehab the gym was mandatory every day. I quickly fell in love with it. The gym became my so-called sanctuary. I used it to escape or find peace. It was an easy way to progress my life for the better every day. I could push myself and learn discipline.
“Diet became an extremely important aspect as well. The better I ate, the harder I pushed myself in the gym, the better I felt physically and mentally. Being in that peak state allowed me to have the same attitude towards my recovery as I did my physique. I chased excellence and would not settle for less.”
Since surviving his addiction, Taylor’s family and friends are so proud of him and his life now is worlds away from his old one.
Each day he wakes up at 5am when we listens to motivational content, journals and writes his schedule for the day before surfing for two hours from 7am before coming home to meal prep for the day before working, and typically ends his day either at a 12 step meeting, volunteering or with his wife and their cats and dogs.
He has gone from 9st 4lb at the height of his addiction and is now between a healthy 12st 12lb and 13st 8lb.
Taylor has shared his addiction recovery story on Instagram under the handle, @addict_2_athlete, and has been using his experience to educate others and prevent them from seeking comfort in drugs like he once did.
“Surviving my addiction has given me a unique education on the subject of drug and alcohol abuse. I now use that knowledge to help others who struggle. Once I was told I could use my experience to give back, I went all in,” he said.
“I was a taker my entire life. I took your time, your money, your trust and anything else I could get my hands on. When I had the opportunity to give. I knew I had found my purpose and I never looked back.
“The most challenging yet most rewarding part of my recovery was switching my mindset. I had come to the conclusion that I was born to die a drug addict and my life was supposed to be an example of how not to live yours.
“Overcoming that state of mind was tough but I was taught that just like in the gym you have to work on yourself day after day to get the desired result. It was the self-love practices and constant work on myself that was the catalyst for my mental and psychological shift.
“The feeling is nothing short of miraculous. My life today far exceeds anything that I thought possible for a street level junkie like myself. In fact words truly cannot capture how I feel about the opportunities that I have today.
“To be able to look someone in the eye and say, ‘I get it. I have been there. I was hopeless too. But there is hope. You deserve a good life. You have the capability to be great and you can make it out alive.’ Then watch the hope start to fill their eyes and get to witness their life start to flourish. That’s the stuff. That’s the reason I am still alive. To carry that message. I truly believe that with every ounce of my soul.
“To adolescents I would say communicate how you feel to others. Whether it’s your parents, a teacher, a coach, an aunt or uncle, an older sibling or any other type of adult that you trust. Just express yourself.
“It’s ok to not feel a part of. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to fear the future or the unknown. It’s ok to not know who you are. It’s ok if you feel you don’t fit in. You just need to talk about it.
“To the young adults or adults that are struggling I would say that if you are walking, talking or breathing there is hope for you. You are not a victim of your circumstance. It’s not too late to make a change if you truly want to. But as I had to do, you need to make a decision and then follow it up with massive action.
“Day after day I fought for my life because beyond a shadow of a doubt I never wanted to go back to that place of misery and pain. It will be challenging but once you are on the other side life is so beautiful. I ask you to just do one thing and that is just believe me. Believe that you too could have an absolutely incredible life driven by passion and fulfilment.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/addict_2_athlete